Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wilder's Search for the Knockout Punch

Deontay Wilder is turning into the modern Joe Frazier. Not so much in fighting style, but in what he represents. Wilder, like Frazier, is a likeable champion. He’s charming, but soft-spoken and respectful. Even when Wilder pushes the envelope – for example, entering the ring in a mask and feathery robe (a giant bird suit???) – it doesn’t feel like it’s coming from an electric personality.
Instead, it’s the mark of a hometown guy trying to keep up on the national stage.

Last weekend, when pitted against Tyson Fury, Wilder’s personality seemed to fade into the background behind Fury’s overwhelmingly confident persona. Fury was the man that all eyes fixed on. He was the one who had people laughing and feeling nostalgic. He was the personality that seemed to be resurrecting heavyweight boxing from the doldrums of recent decades. 

Wilder’s role in this saga is similar to that of Frazier in his thrilling boxing series with Muhammad Ali. Like Wilder, Frazier 50 years ago was playing the straight man to Ali’s comedy. In the buildup to the three fights, Ali provided the zingers and the one-liners. As he did in the ring, Ali danced around Frazier verbally. And, like in the ring, Ali’s words were punches aimed at knocking out Frazier: “It will be a killer and a chiller and a thriller when I get the gorilla in Manila.”

In that epic series, Frazier won the first fight, but subsequently lost the next two. The series between the two was the greatest in boxing history. Unfortunately for Frazier, Ali walked away with the glory, culturally and in the ring. Ali was the one talked about in the moment and in retrospect.

Fury isn’t attacking Wilder in the same way. During the first fight, Fury didn’t go after Wilder in the ring. Before and after the fight, Fury didn’t go after Wilder either. Still, all eyes are on Fury. Popular opinion is that Fury won the first fight through boxing skill. Similarly, Fury won the fight culturally. The media and the fans are fixated on him.

He needs to push himself and be more aggressive. The media has marveled at the civility of Wilder and Fury’s partnership. They joke, shake hands, and congratulate each other on how great each other is. That’s lovely.

But for Wilder, the next match needs to be a killer’s game. It needs to be about knockouts and aggression. The moments and years ahead are legacy-defining for Wilder and important to the future of American heavyweight boxing. To avoid being the forgotten man, Wilder needs to get one-step ahead of Fury. Currently, Wilder is losing the duel of amiable charisma. That’s because civility and charisma is Fury’s fight. Fury doesn’t look for knockouts in the ring, and he’s not going to look for it outside either. He wants to keep Wilder at bay and off-balance.

Wilder can’t let that happen. Wilder has to overwhelm Fury. In rounds nine and twelve of the first fight, Wilder did just that. Rather than throwing an errant one-two combo and then backing out, Wilder moved forward. He put just a little more pressure on Fury, without getting reckless. Wilder needs to do more of that in the second fight. Wilder can overwhelm Fury with his power, speed, and athleticism. He needs to be a monster if he wants to win the next one. That means he needs to add a little more Ali to his pre-fight demeanor, and a little less Frazier. Because, if he’s going to fight a fight of skill or charisma, he going to lose, and like Frazier, he’s going to be the forgotten champion.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dylan Farrow's Letter to Woody Allen: Facing Your Tormentor

[Disclaimer: Woody Allen has never been convicted of child molestation, and probably, never will]

With the Super Bowl and the tragic death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, this past weekend was swarming with headline news. Unfortunately, one story was pushed to the side, as it often has been for the past twenty years: Woody Allen’s involvement with child molestation.

Image courtesy of the Guardian
Rising to fame in the late 60s and early 70s, Woody Allen soon became a house hold name, a respected artist inside of Hollywood. A deadly and disarming mix of talent; Allen was a writer, director, and actor. Over his 50 years of filmmaking, he would bring the world some of the best love stories of all-time, influencing viewers in unparalleled ways and earning an unbelievable 4 Oscars in the process.

However, the man that built a career writing about love and relationships may have been having a secret courtship of his own, a courtship with his daughter Dylan Farrow.

Originally published in November 1992 exposé, author MaureenOrth writes, “[Allen] could not seem to keep his hands off [Dylan]. He would monopolize her totally, to the exclusion of her brothers and sisters, and spend hours whispering to her.” As time passed, Allen’s deviance grew and his acts became more and more lewd and disturbing. Later in her article, Orth chronicles a sunny afternoon at Allen’s Connecticut ranch:

There was a brief period, perhaps 15 minutes, when Woody and Dylan vanished from sight. The baby-sitter who was inside searched high and low for them through the cluttered old farmhouse, but she couldn’t find them. The outside baby-sitter, after a look at the grounds around the house, concluded the two must be inside somewhere. When Mia got home a short time later, Dylan and Woody were outside, and Dylan didn’t have any underpants on. (Allen later said that he had not been alone with Dylan. He refused to submit hair and fingerprint samples to the Connecticut state police or to cooperate unless he was assured that nothing he said would be used against him.) 
Dylan was on the sofa, wearing a dress, and Woody was kneeling on the floor holding her, with his face in her lap. The baby-sitter did not consider it “a fatherly pose,” but more like something you’d say “Oops, excuse me” to if both had been adults. She told police later that she was shocked. “It just seemed very intimate. He seemed very comfortable.”
Image courtesy of Vanity Fair
Since its original publication, Allen has claimed that all of this is untrue and that his ex-wife, Mia Farrow, was trying to slander his name and take down his reputation because of an ongoing custody battle.

Flash forward to 2014: Woody Allen’s stock in Hollywood has risen to an all-time high. Last month, at the Golden Globes, Allen was awarded with a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to film. Allen, an aging and now physically decrepit man, rarely ventures out into public these days and did not attend the ceremony. But his presence can still be felt at every major Hollywood event. Next month at the Academy Awards, Allen is up for yet another Oscar (his 24th nomination in total).

All of the praise and accolades and incessant chatter has swirled around daughter Dylan the entire time, never allowing the face and memory of her tormentor to fade. Instead, his presence and reputation grows more powerful with each year and with each film. This past Saturday, it became too much. Farrow’s open letter to the New York Times was published re-iterating that everything stated in the Vanity Fair piece was 100% true. She writes, “When I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies.”  

Dylan Farrow: Image courtesy of the New York Times
In the open letter, Farrow also calls out current actors and actresses like Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, and Scarlett Johansson for turning a blind eye to Woody Allen’s assaults and continuing to work and collaborate with him. All of them have stayed in support of Allen and/or said that the issue has nothing to do with them. Unfortunately, for Dylan and the public at large, this dismissal is the hip thing to do in Hollywood. Actors, producers, and executives continue to collaborate and fund his work with no second thoughts.

I suppose that it’s not surprising.

After all, Hollywood is a business first and foremost. Being in a Woody Allen film is a guaranteed ticket to stardom and respect. He’s directed everyone from Will Ferrell to Owen Wilson, pulling out some of the best performances of their career. Nobody wants to stop that money train. This type of repudiation is not unprecedented, either. Take a look at Roman Polanski, a man that was charged with rape and sexual abuse of a minor, then fled to France and never returned. Like Allen, Polanski went on to win an Oscar after the fact. Like I said, it’s hip to let molesters (alleged*) continue on.

Of course, a common argument out there is: “Well, Allen was never convicted, and every man deserves to be tried. You know, innocent until proven guilty.” Only, that doesn’t always work in cases of rape and molestation. In today’s world, there are countless predators roaming the streets, side stepping convictions and/or jail time. There are just too many loopholes in the legal system to bring them all in. There is too much gray area to “prove” anything. Allen, interestingly, was never declared innocent; the judge’s conclusions were simply: inconclusive and that Allen was not allowed to see his child.

But the public still knows the hard evidence, some of which include:

1. At least one person (the Connecticut babysitter) that has witnessed Allen performing lewd acts on Dylan.
2. Numerous undeniable incidents of inappropriate and unexplainable behavior.
3. Dylan Farrow has and continues at age 28 to give graphic descriptions of what has happened to her.

Image courtesy of Newsleader
Some may ignore the accusations against Allen, and some may say that the courts have declared him 
innocent. Actors may continue to jump at the chance to work with him, and audiences may continue to line up to watch his movies. We may never get the full truth or conclusive evidence about Allen or any other predator out there. But it’s important to remember that sometimes there are predators, sexual deviants, that have side stepped the law. Sometimes, these are the people that are taking your money, and garnering your praise, and sometimes, these are the people teaching you about love.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Kristen Is the Toughest, Hottest, Funniest Girl of All-Time

Langston is going to have his Mom's fighter spirit.
Me and my wife talk about everything, but a lot of the time our conversation circles around one thing: trying to figure out what the hell other people are thinking. Everywhere we go, everything we listen to, we always come across some nutcase that is completely unaware of manners or the vibes he/she are putting off.  I think that I’ve become more aware of this since I’ve been with my wife because the lunatics are always flocking to her, falling in love with her, or stalking her from a bush. I’m always asking my wife if I can kick their ass, but she always tells me to let it go; it doesn’t matter (she is much better at dealing with this; I guess a woman has to be).

Anyway, a couple of days ago, we were talking about all of the crazy things that other pregnant women do. The small minority of women that use their pregnancy to get, get, get, and the pregnant women that put their baby at risk by smoking cigs and drinking and taking pills. We were shocked how common this actually is!! And, we were shocked at how nonchalant people can be about it (one person even asked my wife if she would like something to drink: beer? Glass of wine?).

At home, there is nothing better than Kristen's smile
But, this isn’t the case around our house. Kristen cares way too much about Langston to put him in any kind of harm. She watches what she eats, and she does everything a great Mom is supposed to do. On top of that, she keeps such a great outlook about everything by smiling and joking and laughing and wanting to be active. Even when she’s a little sad, there is a smile that is ready to crack through at any moment. She amazes me every day with how tough she is (I’m really humbled and motivated by the fact that she insists on working and teaching during her pregnancy). It’s undeniable that she cares about her family and her son more than anything. She is already the best Mom in the world, and we all know that Langston is going to love her more than anyone can imagine, just like his Dad does.   

The Return of the Dynamic, Underappreciated Rajon Rondo

Tonight marks the return of one of the NBA’s most dynamic, electrifying, and all too underappreciated players: Rajon Rondo. It’s been nearly a year since his devastating ACL tear, and during his hiatus, Rondo has fallen off of the NBA radar. His return hasn’t been anticipated. His name hasn’t even been mentioned.

Of course, this isn’t surprising. Ever since Rondo entered the league, he’s been viewed as a coattail rider (Garnett, Pierce, Allen, and Rivers), and a guy that never really had a superior skill set. He’s been bashed for not being able to shoot, and he’s been portrayed as a head case and a problem child. He’s been left off of the Olympic team, and he’s been in countless trade rumors.

All of this disrespect is completely unwarranted.

The reason for this disrespect, however, is no mystery. Rondo’s style of play makes people feel uncomfortable. He’s a transcendental player that doesn’t fit any particular mold or idea of what an NBA point guard should be, and people can’t handle it. It’s a smaller scale problem of what plagued Tim Tebow, but unlike Tebow, Rondo is an extremely polished player.

In fact, for the last few years, Rondo has been one of the most polished NBA players in the league. And, his skill set all starts with his passing. During his entire career (especially during the past few seasons), Rondo has been a statistical anomaly when it came to assists, averaging a Nash/Magic/Kidd/Stockton level 11 assists per game. On top of that, during the middle of last season, Rondo was only a few games short of breaking the
Rondo's long arms allow him to get creative with
his passing.
record for most consecutive 10 assist games. But, what may be even more amazing is the way Rondo gets his assists. His praying mantis arms and oversized hands provide him with one of the best ball fakes in the league, as well as allowing him to throw head spinning wrap around passes and extremely accurate lob passes.

Passing isn't the only thing, though. Adding to the polished play is Rondo’s shooting. Waaaaaaaait!!!!!!!!! What????

When Rondo first entered the league, he was a non-threat from outside of the paint. But, times have changed. According to Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry, “Rondo was actually one of the best elbow shooters in the league last season. Out of 141 NBA players who attempted at least 100 shots from the elbows, Rondo ranked fourth in field goal percentage- trailing only Jason Smith, Steve Nash, and Jose Calderon.” DAMN. Who the hell would’ve thought that? Sure, he still can’t shoot a three, but Tony Parker has proven that an elite point guard doesn’t have to. In fact, the entire Rajon Rondo shooting evolution is very Tony Parker like. Hmmmm.

But, Rondo is most underappreciated when it comes to his playoff performances. Over the past 6-7 years, NBA fans have watched Rondo dazzle when it matters most. He’s been more electrifying than Steve Nash (no defense), Derrick Rose (shoots too much), Russell Westbrook (shoots too much and at horrible percentages), Chris Paul (never wins), and Derron Williams (is he like 50 years old?). Really, his only point guard rival is…once again Tony Parker (this guy is just really fucking good).

Rondo was a huge contributor when the Celtics won their ’08 championship, even garnering Phil Jackson’s respect; “he was the star of the [deciding] game.” For the next few years, Rondo put up staggering triple double numbers while carrying his team deep into the playoffs. During the ’09 playoffs, he averaged 16.9 ppg, 9.8 assists, and 9.7 rebounds!!! During the 2012 playoff run, he set a Celtics record for most playoff assists and most playoff triple doubles. The Celtics are the most historic playoff team of all time!! And more impressively, he almost single-handedly led the hobbled Celtics to what would have been the biggest playoff upset of all-time.

Rajon dropping 44 points, 10 assists, and 8 boards 
in the '12 Eastern Conference Finals. 

Tonight, after way too long, we get to watch Rajon again. Hopefully, his injury doesn’t creep around like it did for Rose and Westbrook. Hopefully, he can push the Celtics into the playoffs, so we can watch him go wild. Hopefully, everyone will appreciate him a little more this time around and give the respect he deserves.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

How the Recession Rejuvenated the Music Scene

During any point in the 20th century, a person could point to the music industry to signal what was going on in culture. During the 50s, Elvis shook his hips and became the first major iconic musician, while kids truly rebelled for the first time against their parents. During the 60s, cerebral folk music rose to the top as colleges boomed. Later in the decade, psychedelic rock was king while acid melted minds. The 80s was coke and disco/anthem rock. The early 90s was alternative rock and Prozac-cable television cocktails.

Then, we came to the late 90s and early 2000s- the period in which I grew up. A period all about blow jobs (Clinton was the spokesman), making money, and… big-bling-over the top music. Rappers were wearing baggy pants and flashing Benjamins while they rapped about bitches and hoes and getting rich. Shallow boy bands were staging HUGE productions and dating the most beautiful women in the world. Only rivaled by disco, it was probably the most soulless period in the modern music era. But, why was it like that?

Last year, an older friend of mine said, “I feel bad for you kids today, having to deal with that recession. In the 90s, we were all swimming in money.” Swimming in money! That’s when I realized why this-
Cash MONEY Bitch!

Happened. People were going crazy (I can't blame them!) because they were making money hand over fist. For God’s sake, they were getting free money in the mail. Why would anybody care about anything? Why would a person be introspective when they’re loaded and greed is good?

Preach Brother!
But as we slipped into the recession and people were no longer swimming in green, a slow tide washed over the music industry. Executives couldn’t sell bling and grilles and rims because nobody had any money. They couldn’t sell over the top rappers and a half dozen boy bands. For a while, the executives seemed lost. Music was in a transition period, and soon enough, crazy shit started to appear. Even to the point where underground electronic-techno music became popular (somebody kill me), and people actually believed that guys like DJ Pauly D were musicians.

Today, as everybody recovers from the financial crisis, the music industry is still trying to find itself, and fortunately, one movement of substance has actually emerged: a new age hippie-blues music scene. It’s the first major wave of good music that has appeared since the early to mid-90s. Free spirited, introspective bands like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and Mumford and Sons are selling out large venues. Dirty, bluesy bands like Alabama Shakes are being featured on Saturday Night Live. Because of this, more and more bands are coming out just like them. Their success has spurred an entire movement with soul and spirit. It’s a movement that wouldn’t have been possible in the late 90s and 2000s because the country had to go through a “depression” to shake us up, and bring us back to some good, soulful music.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why Is Anquan Boldin So Underrated?

On Sunday, as I watched the 49ers take down the Panthers, I left the game thinking a few things. 
  1. There is something really obnoxious about Colin Caepernick. Maybe, it’s that he is desperately seeking approval all of the time. Or maybe, it's that obnoxious, frat boy smile that he is always sporting.
  2. The 49ers defense is awesome (need I say more?).
  3. Anquan Boldin is severely underrated.
For some reason, the Anquan Boldin thing has stuck with me all week. I mean I can’t stop thinking about what bad mother this dude is. Every year, every playoff run, this guy is in the mix making big catches and putting up 100 yard games. But, every time that I hear a “Who’s the best receiver in football discussion,” I never hear Boldin’s name brought up. Why is that? The answer is: it boils down to a few strange circumstances that have somehow diminished his legacy.

The first problem that comes up when assessing Boldin’s career is the pesky injury bug. Boldin’s injuries- which primarily affected the first half of his career- were never too severe. They weren’t even enough to keep him off of the field for very long. So why am I mentioning it? Well, it's because they have come at the most inopportune times.

During the first half of Boldin’s career, he played for the Arizona Cardinals and one of the most dangerous passing teams of the past decade. And when people think of this team, they mostly think of Larry Fitzgerald being the primary threat, but hold on. That wasn’t always the case.

Boldin came out one year earlier than Fitzgerald, and during his rookie year, he had over 1350 yards. The next year, Fitzgerald was a rookie and Boldin was hurt for 6 games. This allowed Fitzgerald to slide into the number 1 slot for a few games, but he still didn’t come close to Boldin’s rookie numbers (780 yards vs. 1377). In fact, Fitzgerald didn’t out produce Boldin in yards per game until 3 years later after Boldin had sat out a significant amount of games in back to back years. If Boldin would have never had those untimely injuries, I’m not so sure he would have ever relinquished the number one receiver position.

In the second half of Boldin’s career, a new set of circumstances have diminished his rep: playing on non-passing teams. For the past 4 years, he’s played for the Ravens and the 49ers. They’re both contenders, but they are both run heavy-defensive teams. Because of this, Boldin has only had one 1,000 yard season during that time. Yikes. That will sink anybody’s claim for being the best receiver in football.

But, this lack of production is not his fault. Over the past few years, great receivers like Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson and Reggie Wayne have all played for teams that do nothing but pass. Of course, they are going to look better on paper, especially regular season paper. But for some reason, deep in the playoffs, they don’t have the same intimidation factor as Boldin.

That’s because in the playoffs, the games naturally slow down and openings down field diminish. Boldin performs anyway; in fact, he is the best playoff receiver over the past 5 seasons. He's been in multiple Super Bowls, had clutch 100 yards games, and made all of the big catches (just like he did on Sunday). He possesses the physicality and the speed and the strength to succeed in the toughest conditions when nobody else can.

So, the next time you and your buddies are having a “Who’s the best receiver in football discussion”, don’t sell Boldin short. He’s had a strange career, but one thing is for sure: when it counts, the guy is money.

It's All in the Family

Langston's room as of today.
In about a month and a half, Kristen and I are going to have our first baby: Langston James Snyder. I can still clearly remember the day that we decided that we should have a baby. I remember the day that we found out that she was pregnant. And, I remember every day since then. It’s been slow, and it’s been fast at the same time.

In many ways, I think being a father during pregnancy is so much different than being a mother. A mother’s job is to take care of the baby, sacrifice her body and everything in her world- her job, reputation…everything. A mother loses herself completely because the job of carrying and creating another person is so tough and demanding and grueling. A good mother gives everything that she has for the baby. That’s what Kristen does every day.

A father’s job, on the other hand, is to make sure that his wife stays grounded and happy and feeling wanted. It’s a difficult task because women naturally feel lost during pregnancy, especially when they’re having their first child. During pregnancy, a father has to be a little more focused on his wife than the baby because realistically, there isn’t much the father can do. He’s a cheerleader, a bench player, a guy on the sidelines. I think a lot of men get lost in this role because it is difficult to stay on track.

Langston's I'm a Monkey Cup. If he is anything
like me, he WILL be a monkey.
But, it is a very, very important job nonetheless. If a man doesn’t keep his wife happy and their relationship intimate, he can lose her forever. She’ll be assigned strictly to a role as a mother and will no longer be a lover, a friend, or anything that a healthy relationship is based on. No woman wants that. 

In today’s world, people always want to make EVERYTHING about the child, but there are some things that need to be kept in perspective, especially a relationship. After all, there is no greater gift for a child than having happy parents. I don’t think people should ever sacrifice parts of a marriage; I think they need to incorporate their children into it.

Langston's I'm a Lion Cup. My
good friend Ronnie always called me young lion.
Now, there's a new kid on the block.
So, that’s what Kristen and I have been working on. She shields the child, and I shield her. It’s a team effort, and all three of us are in it with different roles. We all love each other equally, but naturally, it’s in slightly different ways. Ways that nobody outside of the family could even realize or understand.

I love Langston more and more every day, and I haven’t even met him. I don’t know his personality (except for a few small things that my wife tells me about), and I don’t know his likes and dislikes. Not yet, anyway. But deep inside of me, I have these feelings and these instincts about what he’s going to be like. I feel like he is going to be a strong baby, a guy that doesn’t take shit and is comfortable with himself. I feel like he is going to be polite and mannerly. I think that the girls are going to love him. I think that he is going to be talented: an athlete, a scholar, a musician, social. I have no idea if any of these things are true or real, but I feel them and I want them for him.

I can't wait for me and Langston to shoot
some b-ball together. Maybe, Grandpa can
show him a few tricks on how to play physical.
I think a lot of men have fears about being a father, but I don’t. I’m very confident. I think this is because I had a great father. He was a guy that was always there for me and took care of everything. He taught me to play basketball, and he supported everything that I ever set out to do. Because of that, I’ve accomplished it all. Today, we’re like best friends. We can talk about everything and do anything together. We have respect for each other as people. This is what I want for me and Langston, and I’m sure that is what we will have. I love you buddy, and I can’t wait for you to get here.